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Huckleberries

| April 30, 2023 1:05 AM

Ruthanna Hawkins Rauer enjoys the memories but downplays her glory days.

A Coeur d’Alene native, the retired Spokane Valley teacher was the first Miss Diamond Cup, a royal who hung out in the pits of the town’s unlimited hydroplane races, bestowed awards — and even a kiss.

“I had a pulse, and I was available,” Ruthanna told Huckleberries about her 1958 experience.

Ruthanna may be far removed from the rooster tales of yore, but she recalls the community effort that brought the races to town, especially those of the old Athletic Round Table.

"They were dedicated men who knew how to get things done,” Ruthanna said.

Ruthanna, then 19 and a sophomore at the University of Idaho, was available due to sickness in the family. She returned home during her spring semester to look after her younger sister and help at home while her parents, Bill and Agnes Hawkins, were recuperated.

Growing up, she and her siblings enjoyed an Ozzie-and-Harriett life in the shadow of the courthouse, where her father was county prosecutor. (In March, Ruth helped dedicate the old family house at 627 N. Government Way, as the new home of the Music Conservatory of Coeur d’Alene.)

Committee members didn’t have to ask twice when they offered Ruthanna the role of Miss Diamond Cup for the inaugural races June 28-29, 1958.

“There was no competition,” Ruthanna said. “The committee asked if I’d be interested. It was incredible.”

Ruthanna soon found herself traveling with Duane Hagadone, John Richards and Lee Brack to promote the races in meetings with small-town service clubs and organizations, as well as major venues in Seattle and Lake Tahoe. During local trips, she discovered Duane’s fondness for ice cream.

“He would call me in the morning and say that we were going to have lunch in Worley, or some other small town,” Ruthanna said. “And he’d always stop for ice cream afterward if he found a place that served it.”

As the face of the first Diamond Cup, Ruthanna was featured in promotional photos, including a memorable one that shows her holding a large fake diamond. If you look closely, the “diamond” consists of two ornate glass ashtrays, stacked together, from the old Athletic Round Table.

Miss Diamond Cup 1958 was also in the right place at the right time when pilot Bill Stead offered local hydroplane Commodore John Richards a ride in his Maverick on Lake Coeur d’Alene. Richards declined.

“He preferred to have both feet on terra firma,” said Ruthanna. When the invitation was extended to her, Ruthanna was in the cockpit almost as fast as she could say, “You bet.”

Stead, who would win the 1958 and 1959 races and a kiss from Ruthanna, cruised around the course four or five times at 120 mph. At one point, he let the teenager steer.

“It was quite an experience in the straightaway,” she recalls. “The water looked like slate.”

Afterward, Ruthanna returned to college to finish her degree and, in 1960, married an Air Force veteran.

Now 85, she remembers Coeur d’Alene “as a great place to grow up. It was safe. We had a lot of pride.”

Tearful goodbye

A failing market for precious metals spelled the end for the old Union Pacific Railroad that had run for 107 years from Mullan, near the Montana border, to Plummer.

On April 28, 1993, mourners from Mullan, Wallace and Kellogg lined the rails as Engine No. 2058 made its final 71-mile trip. Some were crying. Some were singing. Sixth Street Melodrama members were dressed in olden garb. And journalists were following “eager to witness (the railroad’s) dying breath.”

Born in 1886, a reporter said, the line had “carried countless tons of raw wealth from points of origin such as the Lucky Friday mine in Mullan and the Star mine in Burke Canyon to build Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.”

One Wallace resident compared the railroad’s departure to murder. “I think it’s going to be a real barrier in any recovery movement for the Silver Valley,” he said.

But the old line didn’t die that day. Visionaries later tapped its tourism potential. Today, it has been transformed into one of the region’s popular bike routes: The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.

Sacred places

Twenty years ago, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne was among the dignitaries who kicked off a fund-raising campaign to raise $5 million for a three-story library at Seventh & Front.

The Library Foundation already had collected $1 million.

“Libraries are sacred places,” Kempthorne told a gathering at the Coeur d’Alene Inn. “It’s where we keep our books, information, and history.” Kempthorne praised Coeur d’Alene’s ability to build a library with private dollars. “It speaks volumes about the community,” he said.

Well, there were bumps along the way to the library dedication on Sept. 9, 2007. A $3 million bond was needed to finish funding. And a floor was shaved from the original plans to increase the chances of getting supermajority approval for the bond. Sixty-eight percent voted for the bond.

In 2012, the Idaho Library Association named our library the best in the state.

Why am I telling you all this? We have fought too hard for our local libraries to allow Johnny-Come-Lately book banners to take over.

Huckleberries

Poet’s Corner: First clouds, then sun, then rain and snow/in quick succession come and go/and thus we have the springtime’s way —/three months of weather in one day — The Bard of Sherman Avenue (“Spring Day”).

Limericking: They're clearly just nursing a grudge,/While thumbing their nose at the judge./I'd like to have hope,/But the chairman's a dope./And their lawyer has a head full of sludge — The Humble Spud (“TRUSTEES”).

By the Way — the aforementioned Ruthanna Hawkins Rauer was among 10 Camp Fire Girls, pictured in the Press, who had staged a fashion show and tea for their mothers April 18, 1953. Another Camp Fire Girl in that newspaper photo was Sandra Crimp. The curly-haired girl would grow up to become the only three-term mayor in Coeur d’Alene history: Sandi Bloem.

On This Day … in 1993, business manager Frank Granier of the Press announced the debut of the monthly North Idaho Business Journal. Veteran newsman Ric Clarke was named editor and Cheri Andriolo, advertising director. What they did at first must have worked. Thirty years later, the May 2023 edition of the Business Journal just hit your doorstep.

Quotable Quote: “You’re high class, but y’all ain’t uppity.” That’s how country singer Reba McIntire described our town 30 years ago after shooting golf at the resort course. She was talking to former publisher Bob Paulos at the time. P’haps that’s what’s ailing our town today. Its beauty and amenities may be attracting too many “uppity” — self-important — people.

Parting shot

Trustee Mike Waggoner provided the only moment of levity in the NIC trustee meeting Monday that featured a two-hour meltdown by Chairman Greg McKenzie. While asking a question, Waggoner mispronounced board attorney Art Ma-COM-ber’s surname. And was corrected by MAC-omber. Who patted the new trustee on the shoulder. Ma-COM-ber? MAC-omber? It shouldn’t matter to the controversial lawyer as long as the college spells his name right on the sizeable paychecks he collects.

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D.F. (Dave) Oliveria can be contacted at dfo@cdapress.com.

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Photo courtesy of Museum of North Idaho

Ruthanna Hawkins (Rauer) waves before a trial run in Bill Stead’s Maverick.

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Photo courtesy of The Coeur d'Alene Press archives

Sixth Street Melodrama members and singer Will Clauson mourn the end of the Union Pacific line.

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Photo courtesy of The Coeur d'Alene Press archives

Honorary Chairman Louise Shadduck and former Gov. Dirk Kempthorne at the library fundraising kickoff.

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Photo courtesy of The Coeur d'Alene Press archives

Future mayor Sandi (Crimp) Bloem (front row, second from left) and Ruthanna (Hawkins) Rauer (top row, far left) at Camp Fire Girls fashion show.

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Photo courtesy of The Coeur d'Alene Press archives

Frank Granier (center) reviews the first issue of the North Idaho Business Journal, with Cheri Andriolo and Ric Clarke